By: Jeff Sturgis
Buck Activity Influencers
Predicting mature buck movement isn’t as difficult as you might imagine. When bucks are on their feet, there’s usually a tell tale reason for it! Without a doubt, the whitetail rut is the best influencer of buck activity, but knowing when bucks will move outside of that 2-3 week window depends on several physical and environmental factors. Often times, it’s a combination of the following factors that influence increased buck activity.
With rain, sleet or snow, comes an array of conditions that influence deer behavior. Rain often brings great opportunities to capitalize on consistent and predictable deer movement. The severity of rain relates directly to the potential of activity once the precipitation breaks. Keep an eye on the radar, and be sure to be in the woods when the rain stops! Breaks between showers are also excellent conditions to watch for. It may require you to get wet, but being in your stand or blind for breaks of 2-3 hours between rains or immediately after the storm can put you right in the action for increased buck activity. Sleet and snow are also excellent influencers. They too force deer to miss their preferred feeding times. With depleted energy reserves, the entire deer herd will be hungry and ready to feed when conditions improve. Deer often prepare for winter weather events by feeding before the front, so good sits can be had prior to snow storms as well. Blizzards can force deer to hunker down and miss several feeding times. They will move and feed heavily once severe conditions subside. Depending on the temperatures, it may take warm ups of 10-20 degrees following a storm to get deer to shift from energy conservation to feeding mode. But, when they do, food sources are key areas to focus on!
In periods of warmth or consistent mild conditions, it is often in your best interest to wait for change before hitting the woods. Falling temps force deer to move and feed to maintain energy stores. Unseasonably cold temperatures are excellent influencers of buck activity. While it’s impossible to predict these conditions when choosing your vacation days for the following season, it is safe to say that significant fronts hit every 7-10 days throughout the Midwest. It is definitely in your best interest to watch for them, and do your best not to miss them! To get in depth tips on how to hunt these significant buck activity influencers, check out this article on Whitetail Cold Front Strategies.
Much like other changing conditions, high winds stress deer out. They make it difficult for deer to sense danger, so deer will often hunker down until conditions improve. Rather than waiting for complete calm, watch for substantial change. Whether wind speeds drop from 40mph to 20mph or 20mph to 0. Condition improvement is all relative to deer. When wind speeds drop 10-20 mph, it makes a world of difference, and buck activity will increase!
Mature buck activity is highest where hunting pressure is lowest. Bucks index areas that have offered them comfort and safety in the past. It is often a challenge, but by hunting and accessing your parcel wisely, it can offer those areas of safety and comfort to mature bucks. By pairing good cover and quality food, your parcel can become attractive to the local deer herd, but the absence or perceived absence of hunting pressure can attract mature bucks. If you don’t spook mature bucks from your property, their activity will increase on it and gravitate towards it! This is especially true inn areas with high hunter presence; having the parcel that has the lowest hunting pressure in the area will pay off in big ways!
The greatest asset of the moon phase, is that you know what it will be months ahead of time! However, while the overall influence of the moon phase on buck activity is trivial when compared to the other factors listed above, it can play a small role. Unless you get a few of the other influencers to compliment it, you may find that the moon phase is irrelevant when predicting buck activity. It is important to remember that days with a great moon phase but poor weather conditions are poor days to hunt, while days with a poor moon phase but great weather conditions, are great days to hunt!
Buck activity fluctuates greatly depending numerous factors. The rut is undoubtedly the best influencer, but aside from those few weeks, focus on changes in environmental conditions. However, your property must first offer mature bucks an area devoid of hunting pressure! Focusing your hunting efforts only on days when the conditions are right can not only preserve your properties appeal, but put you in the woods when buck activity is the highest. Whether it be precipitation, wind, cold fronts or a combination of all of these factors, you will find that buck activity is greatly influenced, and your odds of encountering a mature buck are much greater. While it is an influencer, let the moon phase be a compliment to the significant environmental changes. By following the ever changing conditions throughout the entire season, you can concentrate on the ideal activity triggers of bucks, and hunt them accordingly!
Jeff Sturgis is a whitetail deer habitat consultant and writer of the whitetail series "Whitetail Success by Design". For more information on Jeff and to read more of his posts, visit www.whitetailhabitatsolutions.com!